Indie or Traditional?
Wow, there is so much I could blog about this week. After a month or more of trying to figure out what to blog about, there has been a flood of topics. There is the news that the Supreme Court has refused to hear Apple’s appeal of the price fixing judgment. (Has Apple ever failed to reach this level before?) Then there is the news about Samhain shutting its doors. Let’s not forget Randy Penguin’s announcement that it is laying off a “number” of people at Berkley/NAL, including four editors. Those are just a few of the possible topics that came across my desk this week.
All are great topics but a video I saw over at The Passive Voice caught my eye the most. Well, to be honest, it was the comments that really caught my eye. I’ve not seen so many “bless his heart” comments in a long while. That was enough to have me sit through the almost six minutes to find out why this unnamed fellow deserved so many Southern “blessings”.
Before we get into the heart of the video, let’s start with what we know — or don’t know — about the man making it. He is, apparently, an agent. He is from Great Britain. His accent and reference to pounds instead of dollars sort of gives that away. But that’s it.
Now to the video, “Seven reasons why you shouldn’t self publish” (His reasons are italicized)
1.It’s expensive because you have to pay for jacket design, “all the photos”, copy editing and proofreading. He goes on to say he doesn’t feel comfortable with any system that forces authors to pay money to enter the marketplace.
Oh, my. Where to begin?
First of all, you don’t have to hire someone to design your cover. There are templates out there you can download for free. There are detailed instructions to walk you through building your cover. There are free photo manipulation programs as well. As for “all the photos”, I don’t think I have ever paid more than $10 for cover elements. I will admit that I don’t build my own covers, not the final versions. I find what I want and then talk to Sarah or Cedar or a couple of others I know and then trade services. I will copy edit/proofread if they will make what I have drafted as a cover look good. (I’ll admit right here that lettering is my downfall.)
As for the copy editing and proofreading, I admit to shaking my head when this so-called agent didn’t mention content editing. Again, copy editing and proofreading are services you can trade off with other authors for. Effective use of beta readers will also handle a lot of those issues. So, again, no money out of pocket. Nor did this agent mention the fact that there are writers who are traditionally published and who pay to have their work edited before they send it to their publishers because they have learned the hard way that is the only way quality editing will happen.
But what really had me scratching my head was his comment about not being comfortable with any system that “forces authors to pay money to enter the marketplace.” At first, I wondered if he was conflating self-publishing with publishing through a vanity press. After all, those presses, and I use that term loosely, are notorious for making authors pay large sums of money for the production of the books and then forcing the authors to buy a certain number of books that they then have to hand sell.
Then he went on to say that the expense of producing a book should be the responsibility of “big corporations”. Okay, that’s to be expected from someone who makes his living by selling his clients’ work to these traditional publishers. But does he really think authors don’t get that, by going with a traditional publisher, you are paying them in a way? Not only is the author signing over rights to their book for a period of time, they are also giving up the majority of any moneys that might come in from sales of the book. Giving up that money is, if you are honest about it, paying the publisher to publish you. That is especially true regarding e-books when there is no shipping cost, no storage cost, no printing cost and, if you are really honest about it, no editing cost because the book has already been edited. Yet, the authors still receive less than 50% of the royalty in many contracts for digital sales.
2. Self-publishing is complicated.
I’ll admit it. This is the sort of statement that has me digging my heels in and deciding I will do something just because someone says it’s too complicated for my little brain to comprehend. In this case, the agent says that it is complicated because you have to do typesetting, jacket designs, blurbs, etc. First, this seems to be at odds with the above when he said it cost so much to have all that done. Second, I repeat what I said. There are templates, etc., out there and they are easy to follow. Third, you have to have a blurb ready when you send the book to an agent — and your elevator pitch, etc. — and some publishers actually want an author’s input on such things. So, again, where is the problem?
3. “Rule of Life”.
He used the example of a doctor shouldn’t diagnose himself to show that an author shouldn’t be his own publicist. I’ll admit that he was right when he said that a lot of writers are introverts and suck at promotion. I know I do. But there is something else he didn’t mention. Most publishers want their authors to have a “platform”. They want you to blog and be active on social media, etc., In other words, they want you to be your own publicist. Agents look for that sort of thing as well. The last time I went shopping for an agent, most of them wanted to know what my platform was and what sort of promotion I was already doing and what I would do in the future. So, why should an author worry about having to do something as an indie if he would have to do it anyway with a traditional publishing contract?
4. “Why should I wait weeks and months for someone to get back to me and then I won’t even get any feedback?” (Paraphrased)
See my comments under 5 since it relates back to this.
5. Indie publishing puts off agents and publishers.
He says this is because the author has missed the “debut bloom”. He goes on to say that you need to sell in the high five figure to hundreds of thousands of copies of your indie book to impress a publisher.
That’s when I fell out of my chair, laughing hysterically. Yes, it scared the dog and the cats looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Of course a traditional publisher would like someone with that sort of history to come knocking on their door. Unfortunately for the indie author, the track record of traditional publishers maintaining that level of sales for the author after signing a contract is poor. Part of it is that they don’t promote the author like the author promoted herself. Part is the difference in pricing. More folks will buy an e-book at $4.99 (or lower) than they will at $12.99. Not that traditional publishing gets that. They simply see a higher profit margin instead of more of a lower margin. There comes a point in profit where you will make more by selling more at a lower cost.
What he didn’t say, and what may have been at the back of his mind, is that agents and publishers are scared of indie authors. Sure, they might sign one to a contract but they know the indie author knows what sort of money she made on her own. She knows how to read royalty statements and, more importantly from the author’s point of view, she knows that she has an alternative to traditional publishing. She knows she doesn’t have to be tied to traditional publishing to make money or get her books into the hands of her fans.
6. It’s a short cut.
Duh. Of course, he isn’t talking about the time from completion to submission to acceptance to publication if you go the traditional route. He’s talking that you aren’t going through the gatekeeper and, therefore, you may be putting out sub-standard work. He talks about how a writer’s first — and maybe even his second, third and fourth — novel should be consigned to the bottom drawer.
I will admit that he is probably right here. I know that my first novel was best suited for bonfire fodder. I also suspect that there are some first novels making it into the self-published venues. The reality is, someone may buy that book and be burned. That may turn them off of indie books, or at least make them more leery about buying one. That is why the preview function for e-books is so important. It lets readers have a sample of what they are considering buying.
That said, the real issue from the traditional publishing standpoint is that indie is a short cut and bypasses the gatekeepers. It is a boon for readers because they can find just about anything they want.
7. It stops writers from writing.
Yes and no. Yes, as an indie author I have to make sure my work is edited and there is a good cover for it, etc. However, if I were traditionally published, I’d still have to go over editorial notes (or I should). I should also have page proofs to check. As mentioned above, I would still have to be doing my own promotion and maintain my own platform. The only thing I might not have any input on is the cover.
None of this is a condemnation of traditional publishing. It is the route best for a number of authors. I wouldn’t walk away from an offer if it came from Baen because I know the sort of books put out by the house and I trust Toni and company to remember that their authors aren’t interchangeable widgets (something other publishers fail to keep in mind). But it isn’t the only game in town any longer and authors need to remember that. After all, a publisher has only so many slots per month. Of those slots, there are even fewer slots for a “new” author. As indie has shown us, there are many more good to excellent books being written than there are slots available. That is a good thing for the reader and, as writers, aren’t they the ones we have to ultimately win over?
And, since I am bad at self-promo, I’d better take advantage of this opportunity to push some of my work.
War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.
Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.
Fifteen years ago, Juliana Grissom left Mossy Creek in her rear view mirror. She swore then she would never return for more than a day or two at a time. But even the best laid plans can go awry, something she knew all too well, especially when her family was involved.
Now she’s back and her family expects her to find some way to clear her mother of murder charges. Complicating her life even further is Sam Caldwell, the man she never got over. Now it seems everyone in town is determined to find a way to keep her there, whether she wants to stay or not.
Bodies are dropping. Gossip is flying and Juliana knows time is running out. After all, holidays can be murder in Mossy Creek.
The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.
If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.
What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.